Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.

It’s a time for scavenger hunts, hurling leaves at each other’s faces and general merry making. To describe the food we eat would take up a whole page of its own. In brief, you start with the mashed potatoes dripping with gravy, and move towards the turkey that’s been tantalizing you all day. On the side plate is your stuffing and vegetables with enough bread and butter to completely fill any space that might be left. Just when you think you couldn’t eat one more bite, out comes the pumpkin pie, and the lemon meringue… and the cheesecake. Now to just take one slice would be a disgrace, so you have to try them all in order to gauge accurately which is the best.

It took me many years to realize that not eating lunch in anticipation for turkey dinner did not in fact enable me to eat more and instead had the reverse effect: I had many sad experiences of my eyes being too big for my stomach. Yet eating is just one of the best parts of the holiday. Most importantly is being with family and taking a moment to be grateful. Having gratitude gives you this incredible ability to improve your lifestyle without having to spend a dime. First you notice what you do have, and secondly realize what you can do without.

You see I’ve been focusing a lot lately on what I can’t do.

Figuring my language ability isn’t quite up to snuff I’ve made some changes to my class schedule. I jumped up a level, and was faced with brand new teachers and students. In my classes I’m learning how to read newspapers, write short stories and listen to the news. On top of that I’ve been going out of my way to make Chinese friends. These new changes though good in the long run are just making it more painfully obvious how little I know. I’m constantly hitting brick walls of communication that I have to force myself to climb over rather than to give in.

On one particularly dejecting day I decided to stow away in my room. As I was cleaning up my eyes rested on some old newspapers I had lying around. As I flipped through them to my surprise, I came across a paragraph I could read in its entirety.  It startled me so much that I made my roommate read it over to see if I made up the meaning. Granted it wasn’t that long of a paragraph, but the fact that I could understand it, and found it humorous, made an impression on me. Suddenly the line between English and Chinese started blurring. Reading characters wasn’t so much a chore as it was enjoyable. My speaking in a foreign language has turned into thinking, and then into feeling accumulating with my dreams being in a strange mixture of English and Mandarin.


So even though at times I stress out over phone calls and finding the perfect words to say, I can tell that little by little I’m improving. I’m extremely grateful that I have one more year to polish up my speech and aim to use it up the best I can. I miss my family and the friends from last year, but I’m glad we can still keep in contact. I figure this year has a lot of surprises in store and I’m glad I have someone to share them with.